Archive for the ‘2010’ Category

Making Sauerkraut from scratch

I have begun making a 2010 batch of sauerkraut!  Full disclosure: my garden grew pitiful cabbage this year. The two larger ones shown below are (gasp) from the grocery store. I wasn’t able to find any cabbage at the farmer’s markets either, and Farmer L. didn’t have any. :sigh: All of the smallish looking cabbages in the second picture down came from my garden.

The hardest part of making sauerkraut from scratch is obtaining a large crock to put the food in to ferment. Have you priced what new ones sell for? The easiest part is the fermentation.

The most time-consuming part of the project is cutting up lots of cabbage into tiny shreds. The reward is a wonderful product that is ALIVE and good for you! Eating homemade sauerkraut (that has not been canned) aids in digestion by benefit of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacilli plantarum. Read more.

I did most of my slicing with this mandolin slicer, which saved me a lot of time, but there were still lots of end pieces that had to be cut by hand. I started with 12 1/2 pounds of cabbage and even with a helper the slicing took over an hour. Shred into 1/16th inch pieces.

This is the second year that I have used this awesome 4 gallon crock to make sauerkraut. My parents had this crock around when I was a kid, just sitting in the garage literally gathering dust for 30 years. I’m happy to put it to good use now. It ends up about 60% full with a 12 pound batch, which leaves enough head space for the weight and bubbling to safely happen without spilling anything.

I mixed 12 1/2 pounds of cabbage with a half cup of salt. Last year the salt was enough to draw out the water from the cabbage, but this year I had to add brine. I guess it depends on the variety of cabbage and how much rain the plants received.

At any rate, mix the shredded cabbage with the salt at a rate of 1 cup of salt per 25 pounds of cabbage, working in small batches so that all the cabbage gets an even amount of salt. Then pack it down tightly into the crock. Make sure that all the cabbage is covered with liquid. If your batch needs to have brine added, your recipe book will give you a recipe for the salt/water ratio.

The important thing is that the cabbage stay submerged in an anaerobic environment devoid of oxygen. I put a dinner plate and 3 filled quart jars on top to help hold it down. I actually filled the quart jars with salty water so that if they leak the sauerkraut will still be good!

Keep the kraut submerged, and cover the crock to keep dust and cats and such out of it. Every day, lift the towel and skim off any surface mold that has formed. You will know the veggies are fermenting because there will be bubbles coming up. The product will be finished fermenting when the bubbling quits. If it is rather cold in your house, the fermentation process could take 6 weeks, maybe even more. In my house it only took 2-3 weeks last year.

Fermented sauerkraut may be safely kept, unprocessed and alive, in the refrigerator or a very cold room for several months. This is a tangy taste treat that many of us have never experienced, and is much healthier than most store-bought kraut. People used to just move the crock to the root cellar and leave it there, scooping out a few servings when needed.

If you don’t have room for something like that, you can make the sauerkraut shelf-stable by canning it. It still tastes great, and you still know what went into your food. Follow the canning guidelines in your recipe book.

Shown above are 6 jars canned in 2009. This was delicious in our calzones. My mouth is watering and if you knew my history with sauerkraut you would be laughing at me right now. I used to refuse to be in the same room where someone was cooking or eating sauerkraut. Homemade is just so much better than canned product!

Transplanting Horseradish

The picture above is a big bunch of horseradish leaves, attached to some pretty good root pieces that I got from one of my wife’s co-workers. He has been trying for several seasons to get rid of the horseradish. Apparently if you don’t dig up EVERY BIT of root, it comes back again.

By the time I took these pictures, the horseradish had been out of his garden for about an hour, but the leaves were wilting quickly.

Six days later, the leaves are completely dead, but this does not worry me. Every source I have found that talks about horseradish leads me to believe I should have just removed the leaves before planting. The roots are basically indestructible.

I tore off this big muddy piece of root so I could try making a little prepared horseradish, but I will cover that in another post.

If I wanted to, I could take the piece of horseradish root shown above and just bury it in the ground, smaller end down, and it would grow me a whole new plant next spring.

Do you like horseradish? It’s the main spice in the most common cocktail sauce served with shrimp, but you knew that already didn’t you?

The Last Resort

  • Jump to 4:49 for the excerpt below:

Who will provide the grand design?
What is yours and what is mine?
‘Cause there is no more new frontier
We have got to make it here

We satisfy our endless needs and
justify our bloody deeds,
in the name of destiny and the name of God

And you can see them there,
On Sunday morning
They stand up and sing about
what it’s like up there
They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye

Fun Friday Friends Fantastic Photo

Now that C. has gone away to school, we occasionally have a video chat with her using she and my wife’s matching used MacBook laptops!

I put the camera up to my face as a joke, thinking (knowing?) that the photo wouldn’t turn out. I even left the flash on because I was just fooling around. To my surprise the photo couldn’t have turned out better!

We miss you C! Have a fun Friday and we’ll see you for the next one!

Yellow Jacket

S. and I were out working on the gardens near the house and a couple of these wasps were just slowly walking around like they were tired or sick. It was warm enough that the outdoor temperature would not have been bothering them. We just left them alone.

At one point later S. was back inside for a break and I came in after him. As I turned my head to look around I saw this wasp ON MY SHOULDER, walking towards my face. I was a little frightened by that.

I tried to shake him off. He hung on. I tried to BLOW on him to get him to fly off. He hung on. I tried blowing harder with the same result. Then I started to panic. I stretched and pulled my shirt material away from my body so I wouldn’t be stung through it and then began to SCREAM like a helpless [gender and size non-specific person] for my 6-year-old son to come save his Dad. (What was he going to do? LOL! He would have been even more scared!) (Maybe.)

Finally I had the presence of mind to realize that I should just get the shirt off. If I got stung in the face while I removed the shirt then hopefully it would just be ONE sting.

It turns out that my fear was unfounded and I didn’t  get stung at all. As I said before, there was something not quite right about this guy. He had one wing that was all crumpled up and he never flew. We easily captured him for a half hour of observation and then S. let him go out in the creek. I’m sure he wasn’t going to live through the night, with or without being brought into the house.

Pick a peck of popcorn

We got a decent haul from the 4 square feet of popcorn we planted. It’s probably only enough to fill a pint jar after we crack it. See what I did there? 😛

First we have to let it dry enough that it comes off the cob easily when twisted.

Sweet Potato Hunter

This spring, in square of the garden bed closest to our back door, in a space somewhere between 1 and 2 square feet, we had planted 3 sweet potato slips. The plants grew well all summer, and this weekend S. hunted for what we had grown. Before we started taking pictures, we had already removed the flowering vines from above ground and were digging around trying to feel for potatoes.

Sweet potatoes have a very thin skin at first, so you have to be careful with your digging tools, even if you are just using your hands. After a curing period out of the ground, the skin firms up a bit.

The result? 7 pounds of good-sized sweet potatoes in this little space! Well worth it!

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